Preventive care has gained increasing attention in the last several years, as insurance carriers, health organizations like the CDC and even the national government have come to realize an ounce of prevention often equates to a pound of wellness. “An apple a day,” as they say. Since the risk of health problems increases as we age and the type of problems become more complex, this is especially true for older adults.
AARP statistics show that one in five Americans currently is between the ages of 50 and 64 (that’s nearly 63 million people) and as many as 70 percent of them already have been diagnosed with at least one chronic condition— half have two or more. Many of these could have been avoided through preventive care and behavioral changes. Unfortunately, these types of chronic conditions will likely get worse with age unless addressed early.
According to the CDC, these high statistical numbers primarily are due to a previous lack of preventive services for adults over 50. In fact, they say, there is a significant gap in clinical preventive services among older adults— less than half of seniors are up-to-date on recommended services despite being covered by an insurance plan, Medicare or Medicaid.
The U.S. population is rapidly aging, as the Baby Boomer generation hits retirement. Preventive services, where available, for seniors have proved extremely effective and potentially life-saving amongst this group, according to the same CDC study. But, there also are social determinants of health that play a part in these outcomes. No matter the history, one thing is true moving forward— we live longer, happier lives when we’re healthy. For seniors, living long and happy lives often becomes about quality of life, and quality of life is based on a variety of factors. Mental acuity and physical mobility typically play a major part in self-perceived quality of life for older adults.
So what’s your best chance at living a long, happy life? In addition to screenings, immunizations and healthy lifestyle choices, we urge you not to go it alone!
Earlier this month, we celebrated National Primary Care Week. This annual event is aimed at reminding the general population of the indispensable role our primary care and geriatric care doctors play in our health and in our lives.
As we age, having a primary care doctor is critical to what has come to be known as our “continuity of care.” Your doctor will get to know you, watch over you, manage your progress and notice any declines. If you see a specialist or need to visit an ER, your primary care doctor is the point person who keeps track of that information to make sure you get back on track and follow up on appropriate recommendations. Be sure to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor to whom you can voice your concerns and feel like really listens to you. Remember, you are in this together!
In addition to finding to a great primary care doctor, be sure to adhere to the widely recognized key indicators concerning preventive care for all ages. These become increasingly important for older adults and include screenings, immunizations, being up-to-date with services and risk factors, as suggested by the CDC in their Promoting Preventive Services for Adults 50-64: Community and Clinical Partnerships study:
Breast Cancer can be detected through mammography in early stages.
Pap tests are important parts of regular preventive care for women, but more than half the women who develop cervical cancer never have been screened.
Colorectal Cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States for both men and women, but it also has a 90 percent survival rate with early detection and prompt treatment.
Stroke and heart disease are serious issues in adults under 65, and the risk only increases with age. Regular cholesterol screening is simple and essential for early detection.
Although the CDC study did not directly discuss diabetes screening, the disease is very common in older adults. Roughly 10 percent of those living in the United State suffer with it, and more than 25 percent of those are undiagnosed. Sadly, these numbers increase in the over 60 age group, with a full quarter of this population affected by diabetes, according to FamilyDoctor.org.
Influenza and Pneumonia Vaccines
Surprisingly, pneumonia and the flu combined are in the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. Both can exacerbate other medical conditions and are especially dangerous for older adults. Fortunately, vaccines exist for both that can greatly reduce or eliminate the symptoms of these illnesses.
Although the CDC study did not discuss the shingles vaccine, the CDC recommends the vaccine for anyone age 60 and older whether they have had shingles already or not, according to MayoClinic.org.
Up-to-Date on Clinical Services:
Clinical services the CDC specifically points out as preventive care include vision, hearing, prostate cancer, pertussis, bone mineral density scan, oral health and dietary. Many people wrongly believe declines in these areas are inevitable with age, but that’s simply not true. You’re never too young to begin establishing healthy lifestyle choices, but it’s also never too late!
Physical Activity Levels
It’s no secret that regular physical activity is key to preventing numerous chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, stroke and some cancers. It also helps to limit problems like high blood pressure, obesity, arthritis and osteoporosis. However, less than half of all adults get enough exercise. (You can read our post on senior fitness here)
Smoking cigarettes long has been the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, despite the majority of current smokers saying they want to quit immediately.
The idea that most binge drinkers are alcohol dependent is a myth, and nearly 30 percent of adults surveyed said they’d had at least one binge drinking episode in the previous month.
With nearly one-third of all U.S. adults categorized as obese, the vast majority of this population experience other chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and high cholesterol. According to the study, as little as a 5 to 7 percent reduction in body weight will decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes and reduce blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure
Easily caught through regular screenings, untreated high blood pressure puts a person at elevated risk for a variety of problems such as stroke, heart disease, aneurysm, renal disease, but even slight reductions in blood pressure greatly reduces problematic symptoms.
Nearly 20 million U.S. adults suffer from depression each year and even more will have a major depressive episode during their life, but depression remains a taboo subject in many circles. The good news is that regular screening and treatment greatly improves depression in about 80 percent of those affected. Depression is not a normal part of aging. Here in the Gulf Coast of Florida there are many wonderful doctors ready to help you start feeling like yourself again.
Whether you’re a senior living independently or a caregiver looking to ensure your loved one has access to effective preventive care, we can help you find a great long-term fit in senior care and senior housing that includes a preventive care program as part of an overall older adult healthcare program.
Begin your search today by contacting us at 941.479.3500 or via email at JDaniels@AssistedLivingLocators.com.
If you’re a senior care industry professional or senior caregiver who would like to weigh in on preventive care for older adults or you have a new topic you’d like to see covered on our Senior Living Blog, please email us at JDaniels@AssistedLivingLocators.com.